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What Kind Of Effect Will 'Brexit' Have On Florida Tourism?

Aquarium tank with people viewing fish
Visit Tampa Bay
File photo of the Florida Aquarium

While Britain continues dealing with the fallout of its vote to leave the European Union, tourism experts are looking at the possible effects the decision will have on tourism here in Florida.

The M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation at USF Sarasota-Manatee hosted an online panel discussion on the subject Wednesday.

Doctor Jerry Parrish, the chief economist and director of research at the Florida Chamber Foundation, is keeping a close eye not just on how much the British pound has fallen off against the dollar in the days since the "Brexit" vote, but on other markets as well.

"My main concern here is the volatility in the financial markets - that not only affects trading goods, that affects tourism,  because people will sit and they'll just wait and they won't invest and they won't spend money," Parrish said.

And while panelists said they expect that British tourism should be down due to a weak pound versus the dollar, Parrish thinks that the visitors who make the trip across the pond will probably change their spending patterns.

"They'll actually spend less money and spend less on taxable items," Parrish said. "For one thing they'll do is they'll buy meals and cook it in their house or apartment or whatever they're renting over here, rather than go out to dinner."

The problem there is that while restaurant meals are hit with a sales tax, food bought in grocery stores isn't. Florida took in just over $5 billion in sales taxes from all tourists last year.

Parrish expects to see tourism marketing groups like Visit Florida target other foreign countries more in the coming holiday season.

About 1.7 million tourists from the United Kingdom came to Florida last year, up 76,000 from a year earlier. That's second behind only Canada in terms of total foreign visitors to Florida.

Mark Schreiner is the assistant news director and intern coordinator for WUSF News.
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